To investigate the efficacy of the intake of vinegar for prevention of hyperlipidaemia, we examined the effect of dietary acetic acid, the main component of vinegar, on serum lipid values in rats fed a diet containing 1% (w/w) cholesterol. Animals were allowed free access to a diet containing no cholesterol, a diet containing 1% cholesterol without acetic acid, or a diet containing 1% cholesterol with 0·3% (w/w) acetic acid for 19 d. Then, they were killed after food deprivation for 7 h. Cholesterol feeding increased serum total cholesterol and triacylglycerol levels. Compared with the cholesterol-fed group, the cholesterol and acetic acid-fed group had significantly lower values for serum total cholesterol and triacylglycerols, liver ATP citrate lyase (ATP-CL) activity, and liver 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA content as well as liver mRNA levels of sterol regulatory element binding protein-1, ATP-CL and fatty acid synthase (P<,0·05). Further, the serum secretin level, liver acyl-CoA oxidase expression, and faecal bile acid content were significantly higher in the cholesterol and acetic acid-fed group than in the cholesterol-fed group (P<0·05). However, acetic acid feeding affected neither the mRNA level nor activity of cholesterol 7a-hydroxylase. In conclusion, dietary acetic acid reduced serum total cholesterol and triacylglycerol: first due to the inhibition of lipogenesis in liver; second due to the increment in faecal bile acid excretion in rats fed a diet containing cholesterol.